by Tom Watkins
The Tyde’s approach to PR has, like their music, always been a laid-back affair. They seem to have relied largely on world-of-mouth, local gigs and their associations with other acts (such as Beachwood Sparks and the Brian Jonestown Massacre) to cement their reputation as hipper-than-hip veterans of the LA indie scene. Their small but obsessive international fan-base has shown no sign of dwindling either since their first album release in 2003, allowing them to coast along, take extended time off to surf, play in other bands, and generally enjoy the California lifestyle that feeds main man Darren Rademaker’s lyrics. However, as much as D-Rad (as he is known) can rely on this safety net of mega-fans, it’s still somewhat odd that The Tyde’s first album in a decade emerged in early September with barely a whimper. With relatively minimal social media lead-in, I only found out about this 7 track album through a retweet by Belle and Sebastian, and after scouring the internet I could only find a handful of reviews.
Both the album title and the melodramatic black-and-white cover portrait playfully reference Scott Walker’s magnum opus Scott 4. This is amusing, but might set some listeners up to expect something of comparable brilliance to one of the greatest albums of all time.
The album kicks off with ‘Nice to Know You’, which is addressed to a much younger woman with whom D-Rad has had a brief fling, as well as a sort of master-apprentice songwriting relationship (‘You wrote that song for me, on your very first try/ And I swelled inside with pride, ah the motherless child’). Weirdness aside, it’s an engaging listen and the lead guitar riff cleverly recalls the opening riff of ‘Do it Again’, the opener for last album Three’s Co. Otherwise, the same jangly guitars and Felt-esque vocals are there, and the album is off to a reassuringly melodic start.
Second track ‘Ode to Islands’ is classic Tyde; built around chiming guitars and reinstating D-Rad’s core lyrical themes of surfing, surf vans, and having sex after a good day’s surfing. Just when the album begins to cruise along nicely however, third track ‘The Rights’ slams on the brakes with a ponderous two chord Lauren Canyon-style jam that recalls a 1970s CSNY sound check. There’s really very little here that’s particularly memorable, and while you get the sense that D-Rad and his band are really enjoying the wig-out, it’s a waste of good vinyl and I end up skipping the end. Luckily ‘The Curse in Reverse’ picks things up again, not least through the addition of ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, who duets with D-Rad on vocals and guitar very well. Minor chord compositions are a comparative rarity in the Tyde’s catalogue, and the plaintive mood it introduces here lends some much needed emotional depth. It’s the obvious single from the record.
‘Rainbow Boogie’ is a buoyant, rocksteady number that’s pleasant enough, but lacks an obvious hook and doesn’t leave much of a mark. Next is ‘Situations’, a song that’s been kicking about on Youtube in various forms almost since the last album. This doesn’t stop this version from stealing the show here however; it’s the album’s best track, and a wonderful, delicate arrangement that hints at some genuine heartache behind D-Rad’s yellow tinted aviators and wry remove (‘and then that same old rain cloud descended on my brain/unleashed the prettiest storm to come sliding down my lane/and it’s a mother…fucker…when situations change.’)
The closing track, ‘It’s Not Gossip If It’s True’, presents D-Rad at his most self-aware and honest to date, as if finally owning up to middle-age (he’s 53). Seemingly laying out his songwriting strengths and limitations in the opening line, he begins: ‘sit down children, I’m gonna sing you a tune / It’s another one, just like the last one – don’t you know by now, it’s the only thing I can do.’ This sardonic auto-take-down continues throughout the song, encompassing (again) his apparent tendency to date much younger women (‘I’ll find a younger one/just like the last one/don’t you know by now, I’m too old to be doing you’). With swooping pedal steels and wordless harmonies, the song recalls the more expansive side of the Tyde’s earlier work, or that of bassist (and D-Rad’s brother) Brent Rademaker’s band Beachwood Sparks. It’s a rich track sonically and lyrically, which is welcome at this point.
The most obvious flaw of the album as a whole is that, on half of the tracks, the emotional depth and subtlety hidden just beneath the breezy surface of the band’s best work seems largely absent, at least on first listen. Perhaps another few more tracks would have helped the balance in this regard, although ‘Situations’ is vying for best song of 2016 in my book. However, as it stands this feels like a genuinely superb EP, bulked out into an album with some throwaway filler.
Darren 4 is out now.